Ah yes, our feelings of vulnerability.  That conscious or subconscious fear that you will be attacked verbally or physically for something you have done/not done.

When we create, we put our passions and love into our art form and that which we have created, so the mere chance that it might spur any kind of attack is overwhelming.  Even minor attacks in the form of a ‘constructive criticism’, or worse, indifference is can be too much to bear.  When we love something, we want others to love it too.  This creates a situation where we find ourselves looking for agreement or approval.  If we don’t get it we can react in a number of ways.  Sometimes we become defensive, sometimes we get angry, and make comments suggesting that the other person doesn’t have good taste, or doesn’t understand our art, and we pretend we don’t care, but underneath we are saddened or hurt.

My story of vulnerability:

I continue to strive for being willing to be vulnerable, and I find that this gets easier over time.  I remember a time when I was a closet artist.  Whenever I painted, I found it difficult to paint in front of anyone, and I was only willing to show my art to my family.  Once I got comfortable with that, and it took some time, I was able to show it to friends and co-workers.  If I didn’t know a person, I would become very uncomfortable showing them my art.  Eventually, I had a breakthrough that made it possible for me to share my art publicly.  I learned to open up to vulnerability, and show my work to larger groups of people, and now even on-line!

This opening did not come easily.  First,  I had to experience a kind of self recognition for being an artist.  Before this moment, I couldn’t say that I was an artist without feeling like I was misrepresenting myself, and yet I very much wanted to be one.  This self recognition came during an art class, where I created a painting with no intention, and I was just testing out colours and palette knives on a canvas. Here is my creation from that day to remind me that I am and always will be an artist at heart.

This creation communicated a warm, joyous feeling for me and I saw myself as an artist through and through.  I had created a painting that communicated a feeling, without even trying.  I found it quite miraculous to see in one moment I was a dabbler in art, and the next I felt self actualized as an artist.  I floated home that night, happy to have found a part of my authentic self.

My next breakthrough moment was when I shared this moment with a study group that I was part of at the time.  We were tasked with identifying the moments in our week that we saw as miraculous, and I wanted to share this epiphany, however, by the time I met with the group, it all seemed silly.  My inner critic took over.  I minimized the details, even though it felt huge at the time, and I didn’t show them the painting.  They expected me to bring it along, after my having shared such a meaningful moment.  The group made me promise to bring the painting to our larger class.  It took a lot of courage for me to share my story with this small group of 4, and I felt like I had to cross a bridge of fire in opening up my work to the larger class.

By the time the class date came, I had all kinds of resistance showing up.  I was feeling ill, and  didn’t want to go, however, I had made a commitment to my group.  I thought about forgetting the painting at home, but I grabbed it before I chickened out, and headed out the door to class.  At the beginning of class we were asked if we had any interesting experiences that week.  I didn’t put up my hand, but my study group was there to keep me accountable, and they were looking at me.  So I put up my hand a bit.  Others were picked to share their stories, and I was relieved. I couldn’t believe how fast my heart was beating, anticipating that I could have been picked.  I had spoken many times in these classes before and I had already gotten over most of my concern for public speaking, so that wasn’t it.  Then the instructor started talking about integrity and how difficult it can be to maintain our integrity and do what we said we would do in the face of feeling vulnerable.  At this point, I started getting very uncomfortable.  I had promised my group that I would show the picture and share my story.  Then the instructor said that sometimes when we need to speak our truth, it can feel like we are just going to die, our heart beats fast, our palms sweat, all kinds of symptoms show up that can get so bad that we actually can get physically sick.  At this point, my legs were weak, I had dry mouth, my heart wouldn’t slow down, my breathing was fast, and I couldn’t take it any longer.  I wanted to be in integrity and get through this, my head was going to explode.  So I stood up, and said that I needed to keep my promise to my group and share something with the class.  The instructor gave me the floor.  I very shakily, with a squeaky voice told the audience of my experience, and at last exposed my painting to them.  As I raised the painting up, I did so as if it was a shield, so that I could protect myself from the rotten tomatoes that might be pelted at me.  This kind of fear is seemed ridiculous, and yet it was there.  As soon as I showed the painting to the group, something miraculous occurred.  A sense of complete calm came over me, and all the uncomfortable sensations went away.  I was peaceful inside.  Everything was ok, and I wasn’t worried about whether they liked my painting or not.  Some asked me what it was.  I said, “This is me laying in the garden looking up at the sky, feeling the warmth of the sun on me, and having all the flowers and plants in my peripheral vision”.  And the audience member said, “I knew it!  That is how I felt when I saw it”.  Another eureka!  My painting communicated the exact same feeling for someone else. My discovery out of all this – Being vulnerable can be quite freeing!

Here are some tips on Breaking through feelings of Vulnerability

  1. Strive to be Yourself – Being genuine not only frees us, but it frees others.  The ability to be one’s self in the face of criticism or public opinion is a freedom that results in new ways to be, new ways to see, and a deep admiration for others.  Freely expressive individuals keep us awake, and share the potency of self commitment.
  2. Do not Compare Yourself to Others – Comparing your work, intentions, talents with others is a sure fire way to invite a creative clog.  Comparison is one of those temptations that we need to refuse.  Combat this habit with affirmations, such as “I am true to myself”, “I have the courage to express my talents”, and “I am getting better and better”.
  3. Trust Yourself – Courage comes with trusting our good intentions.  When we demonstrate audacity, we are insisting upon our own freedom to express ourselves.
  4. Listen to your Intuition – And your intuition is not the critic sitting on your shoulder.  Listening to ourselves and our inner resources is the only way to know and trust the truth of who we really are.

When we commit with strength and conviction to our desire to share our creative ideas or our creative purpose, our purpose becomes more important than the opinions of others.  It is a choice on where you place your personal power.

Practice Trusting Yourself

Building confidence in your intuitive knowledge will help you open to being more vulnerable and support your authentic way of being.

Complete each of the following sentences with 10 difference responses to each statement:

I think…

I sense….

I know for sure…

Then write about how it felt to make the distinction between thinking, sensing, and knowing.

Now go ahead and share in your creative works and your uniqueness with the world, and see what happens.

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This work by Joanne Dennis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.